Microsoft's Revamped Power BI Hits General Availability

A revamped version of Power BI, Microsoft's cloud-based analytics and data visualization tool, became generally available on Friday, replacing the old "Power BI for Office 365" version.

Microsoft launched a preview of this new Power BI back in January. At that time, the company said that among the changes it was planning to the service was a new pricing scheme that would effectively untether Power BI from Office 365. Previously, Microsoft required users to have a SharePoint Online plan to access Power BI, meaning they had to either subscribe to Office 365 Enterprise E3/E4 (which cost $20 per user, per month) or purchase SharePoint Online as a standalone product ($40 per user, per month).

However, the new Power BI (which Microsoft sometimes refers to as "Power BI 2.0") can be used as a standalone product as of Friday. Microsoft is introducing two pricing tiers at general availability: The basic "Power BI" service is available for free, while the more feature-rich "Power BI Pro" costs $9.99 per user, per month.

According to this FAQ, existing Power BI for Office 365 users will be switched to the for-pay Power BI Pro service when their licenses are up for renewal. However, the new Power BI features will be made available to existing users even if they have not yet transitioned their licenses: "Power BI for Office 365 subscriptions will have access to the new user experience for the duration of the subscription license agreement," the FAQ states.

Users that have been running the preview version from January will be transitioned to the free Power BI service.

Besides the pricing changes, Microsoft has added a number of new features to Power BI, as outlined in this blog post. They include improvements to the Web-based authoring capability, the ability to visualize data from outside sources such as and Quickbooks Online, greater support for Excel, the ability to form Groups for collaboration, and support for the Apache Spark big data framework.

Microsoft also announced the general availability of Power BI Desktop, which replaces the old "Power BI Designer." Available to download here, Power BI Desktop is the report-creation component of Power BI. Microsoft describes the service as providing "a free-form canvas for drag-and-drop exploration of your data and an extensive library of interactive visualizations, while streamlining report creation and publishing to the Power BI service."

This Microsoft blog lists the new features in Power BI Desktop, which include support for more data sources, as well as new ways to sort and display data.

About the Author

Gladys Rama (@GladysRama3) is the editorial director of Converge360.